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Inflation-Adjusted Income for U.S. Engineers Drops

Insights from IEEE-USA’s annual salary survey, in six charts

2 min read

Illustration showing a dollar symbol surrounded by circuitboard lines.

How much does a tech professional in the United States earn? In 2021, the median income of U.S. engineers and other tech professionals who were IEEE members hit US $160,097, up from $154,443 in 2020. That bump in pay is revealed in the IEEE-USA 2022 Salary & Benefits Survey.

This apparent increase turns into a nearly $3,500 dip, however, when converted to real dollars [see chart, below]. It’s the first significant dip in median tech salary in terms of spending power recorded by IEEE-USA since 2013.

These numbers—and 65 more pages of detailed 2021 salary and job-satisfaction statistics—give readers of the salary and benefits survey a good sense of the United States’ tech employment landscape. The analysis is based on 3,057 responses from professionals working full time in their areas of technical competence; they reported their income, excluding overtime pay, bonuses, profit sharing, and side hustles. (When those are considered, the 2021 median income for these tech professionals was $167,988, according to the report.)

Bad News for Women in Engineering

The IEEE-USA 2022 Salary & Benefits Survey chronicles bad news for women in engineering, as their incomes fell further behind men’s in 2021. The gap in salaries between genders grew $5,900 (not adjusted for inflation) to $33,900. The gap is tricky to measure, given that men responding to the survey had more years of experience, as a group, than the women, and more women entering the engineering workforce could skew the median salary downward. However, the proportion of female engineers in the workforce remained flat (on a plateau at under 10 percent, where it’s been for the past 10 years), the survey report noted.

Racial Gaps in Engineering Salaries Narrow

The salary gap between Caucasian and African American engineers decreased by $11,000 to $13,000 in 2021, while the disparity between Caucasian and Hispanic engineers’ incomes fell by nearly $6,000 to $12,278.

Solid-State Circuits Engineering Is Hot

2021 was a good time to be an engineer working with solid-state circuitry; salaries in that technical field continued a steep climb and claimed the No. 1 spot on the salaries-by-specialty list. Last year’s No. 1 on that chart, consumer electronics, saw a decline in average salary. Engineers working with other circuits and devices, machine learning, image and video processing, and engineering in medicine and biology recorded big gains.

Engineering Job Satisfaction Dips

Overall job satisfaction for engineers surveyed by IEEE-USA fell in 2021, with the biggest drop-offs related to compensation and advancement opportunities. Satisfaction with the technical challenge of engineering jobs was up significantly, however.

Pacific Coast Engineering Salaries Jump Further Ahead

Median salaries for engineers in the Pacific region increased dramatically compared with the rest of the
United States, climbing faster than hypothetically booming regions like the West South Central area, which includes Texas. These numbers were not adjusted for regional costs of living, however.

The Conversation (1)
Partev Sarkissian
Partev Sarkissian01 Oct, 2022

These statistics are not a good thing overall. It doesn't bode well for encouraging people to go through the process of university, training and work, only to find in the end that it's not worth it to them to bother to go through it all.

But politics being what they are these days, maybe that's what elitist twits want.